Arsenal are no good at Set Pieces – Fact or Fiction? Find Out here!

Header v WBA ( Courtesy of Guardian)

Giroud Header v WBA ( Courtesy of Guardian)

When Olivier Giroud scored the opening goal from a crossed Mesut Ozil free-kick in our game against West Brom, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only Gooner who felt that the team had been scoring a lot more frequently from set-pieces this season. I have commented on it myself on my blog, and I’ve read the same on other Arsenal fan blogs as well. Considering how often the team is vilified for “not doing enough on set-pieces” whether it be attacking or defending them, it has been pretty great to watch how much more dangerous we seem to be from our attacking set-pieces. So much so that when I decided to do this piece, I pretty much knew what I expected to find when I looked at the numbers, but after crunching the figures for over five hours, all I have to say is “Things may not always be what they seem.”

Let’s begin with the goals. Arsenal have scored 23 goals in the Premier League so far this season, five of which have come from set-pieces. Of the five set-piece goals, Giroud has bagged three, while Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny have bagged one each. The five goals were assisted by Ozil and Santi Cazorla (two each) and Nacho Monreal, who took the throw-in that led to Alexis scoring his third goal at Leceister. Apparently throw-ins can count as assists as well! But I digress. The five goals account for 22% of Arsenal’s league goals, and we’re 9th in the table in as far as set-piece goals are concerned. But if we’re to take penalties away from the equation, we’re now 4th. Sides like Leceister for instance have taken and scored five penalties so far this season, while Palace have scored three. The penalty we were awarded against West Brom was our first of the season, and Santi was unfortunate to miss. If we’re to break it down further, Arsenal lead the league in terms of goals scored from crossed free-kicks (3), tied with Spurs. So how does this compare to the 2013/2014 and the 2014/2015 league seasons?

  Set-piece Goals % of Total Goals Scored Direct Free-kicks Crossed Free-kicks Corners Penalties
2013/2014 11 (15th) 16% 0 4 (4th) 4 (14th) 3 (12th)
2014/2015 22 (3rd) 31% 3 (2nd) 4 (6th) 8 (5th) 6 (2nd)
2015/2016 5 (9th) 22% 0 3 (1st) 1 0


You can probably already tell where I’m going with this, but let’s break it down even further in the hope that I won’t lose you in all the numbers. Next let’s look at the assists, with particular focus on two of our more prolific providers, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla.

Mesut Ozil:

  Assists Set-piece Assists % of Total Assists
2013/2014 9 2 22%
2014/2015 5 2 40%
2015/2016 11 2 18%


Ozil set piece accuarcy

Ozil set piece accuarcy

Santi Cazorla:

  Assists Set-piece Assists % of Total Assists
2013/2014 8 3 38%
2014/2015 11 2 18%
2015/2016 3 2 67%


Santi Corners

Santi Corners

There are many factors at play here, like Ozil’s much-reduced playing time last season due to injury for instance, or the fact that Ozil has already registered more assists in 11 league appearances this season than in any other since he joined Arsenal. So let’s look at chances created instead.

Mesut Ozil:

  Chances Created Chances Created from Set-pieces % of Total Chances Created
2013/2014 91 17 19%
2014/2015 82 13 16%
2015/2016 68 13 19%


Santi Cazorla:

  Chances Created Chances Created from Set-pieces % of Total Chances Created
2013/2014 87 22 25%
2014/2015 98 23 24%
2015/2016 44 11 25%


So it’s pretty much consistent. In fact the two things we can take away from this are that Ozil, Cazorla and Arsenal in general are creating more chances than they have over the past two seasons, and that we did not start getting good at set-pieces this season. The next time someone tells you Arsenal are no good at set-pieces, just point them this way. You’re welcome!

Set Piece Assisters

Santi and Ozil have had some particularly good games when taking set-pieces into consideration, like three of the seven chances Santi created against Stoke were from set-pieces. He was also 3/5 against Everton. Ozil created 3/5 chances from set-pieces against Swansea, and four of the seven chances he created in one half of football against Spurs were also from set-pieces. But we’re not done yet, let’s look at the overall number of shots that Arsenal have had and how many of those were as a result of set-pieces.

  Total Shots Shots from Set-pieces % of Total Shots
2013/2014 523 126 24%
2014/2015 610 122 20%
2015/2016 232 51 22%


But the last parameter we’ll look at does denote some progress in terms of our effectiveness from set-pieces. I’ve taken Giroud and Sanchez, our top scorers from the past two seasons, and looked at how many of their shots on goal and goals have come from set-pieces. Giroud has scored seven league goals, three of which were as a result of a set-piece (43%), while Sanchez has scored six league goals, one from a set-piece. Last season, four of Giroud’s 14 goals were from set-pieces (29%), while Sanchez scored two of 16 from set-pieces. In the 2013/2014 season, Giroud scored just two of his 16 goals from set-pieces (13%). So from 13% to 29% to 43% so far this season, points towards not only Arsenal’s improved effectiveness from set-pieces, but improvement on an individual level by Giroud. Over the past three seasons he has been the most effective Arsenal player from set-pieces (excluding penalties), and even though it’s early doors this season few would bet against him continuing to bang them in from corners/free-kicks.

The pattern is pretty similar for Olivier Giroud in as far as shots taken are concerned.

  Shots on Goal Shots from Set-pieces % of Total Shots
2013/2014 112 17 15%
2014/2015 70 15 21%
2015/2016 37 11 30%


So there you have it. I’m not sure how much reading this piece has influenced how you perceive our effectiveness from set-pieces, but I certainly hope you’re more enlightened. Here’s to goals, goals, and more goals starting with Norwich this weekend and more gifts leading up to Christmas from Ozil and Cazorla the guys who just can’t stop giving!

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